The arrival of spring also marks the appearance of many creatures, great (well, modestly sized), and small to the garden. If you're wild about wildlife, here's some ways to encourage animals into your outside space.
And, if critters are causing chaos in your garden, we've got some tips to help there, too.
The addition of a pond to your garden can provide a much needed breeding area for frogs, newts and dragonflies, and also creates an area for birds to drink from all year round. When selecting the site for your pond or water feature, choose a place that's not directly under trees where there's the likelihood of falling leaves - that way you won't be constantly fishing them out and cleaning up debris.
Short on space? Even a bird bath or a plant pot filled with water can help birds and other wildlife.
Something so simple as grass in the garden can be incredibly beneficial to lots of wildlife, all year round.
Short grass helps birds search for food easily - sometimes even the early bird needs a little help catching the worm!
Some people like a neat and tidy lawn at all times, but allowing some long grass helps to feed a number of other creatures, such as butterflies. Or, go one step further and grow flowering plants in your grass, which will also encourage various wildlife. If having meadow flowers in your lawn ruins your aesthetic, choose a section of the garden to create an area where you can grow wildflowers.
More than a simple border to divide your garden from the neighbour's, hedges offer shelter to many animals all year round, as well as giving birds a place to nest. A hedge is also one way to offer animals in the garden protection from the elements, whether that's a hot summer day or torrential rain.
Filling your borders with bright blooms not only makes for a colourful garden, it also helps to provide for wildlife, too. Grow flowers for bees, butterflies and other visitors - choose a range of annuals and perennials, and incorporate flowers with pollen and nectar to give the bees a helping hand. Sunflowers are a particular favourite for worker bees, and once they’ve flowered, the seeds also make a great source of nutrition for birds and insects.
Small but mighty
A small outside space doesn’t have to mean you can’t encourage wildlife to it, you just have to get a little creative. Even pots and containers on the patio can have benefits for wildlife - small insects can shelter underneath, while pollinators can enjoy what’s planted inside. Hanging nuts and seeds can help birds especially in winter, and these feeders take up relatively little space. Or, a hanging basket not only looks lovely, but can also provide nutrition to wildlife, plus a place to shelter or even nest.
Compost is not only great for the garden, but it also helps out a huge number of creatures in the garden. The compost itself encourages wildlife such as worms and mites, who are all a part of the composting process, so will help that matter to convert from your old potato peelings and grass cuttings to compost. But, having these insects and invertebrates inhabiting your compost is also great for the birds, who can feast on what they find.
Keeping wildlife out
Sometimes, you might not want to encourage certain wildlife into the garden. Perhaps you’ve got some prize carrots growing that you’d rather not share, or a cat who brings you back ‘treats’ they find in the night.
● Installing a fence to create a barrier is one way of keeping critters at bay, especially stopping rabbits from munching through your crops. To prevent them from burrowing under and feasting on your produce, dig it in about 250mm deep. ● Elevating your plants and crops is another way to keep some animals at bay - raised beds can limit the damage they’ll do, as will window boxes which are out of harm’s way for hungry bunnies.
● To stop birds stealing your fruit crops, place netting over your berry bushes just before the fruit ripens.
● If you like a tidy garden, then perhaps consider a wild area - this will encourage wildlife to forage here for food first, rather than heading to the places you’ve carefully planted your crops. And, it’ll give somewhere for mice to hide, so that your pets don’t find them as easily and bring them back for you as a gift.
● Finally, while compost is a great way to encourage wildlife into the garden, it can attract some unwanted pests. To avoid this, keep your compost tidy in a compost bin.